Preview: Premiership, Round Three
Preview: Premiership, Round ThreeSHARE
The Premiership table is slowly starting to take shape after two rounds of the new season but there are a couple unexpected names propping up the log… can Quins and Bath turn their fortunes around this weekend? rugby365 preivews all the GP action…
Both Harlequins and Bath were involved in very public off-the-field drama’s during the summer and it is becoming very evident that those saga’s are having an affect on the teams performances on the pitch.
Two sides are packed full of talent and yet, after two defeats each, find themselves sitting uncomfortably in 11th and 12th respectively on the log.
At the other end of the table Saracens and London Wasps are enjoying the new season more than anyone else. The only two teams left with a 100% winning record, both Brendan Venter and Tony Hanks will be hoping their troops can continue there great form this weekend.
With no clear match of the weekend, rugby365 are tipping the Glocuester/Northampton match to be the one we all remember this weekend. Two exciting backlines, if conditions allow, which could provide plenty of entertainment!
Guinness Premiership Round Two:
Friday, 18 September
Sale Sharks v Bath (19.45) (18.45 GMT) – Edgeley Park – Bath travel to Stockport this weekend in desperate need of a moral boosting victory after two tough defeats in consecutive weeks to start their new Premiership season.
Struggling without their first choice flyhalf Butch James, Steve Meehan’s men were disappointing against Gloucester on the opening day before going down at home to London Wasps last weekend.
Sale meanwhile are one of only four undefeated teams left in the league. A win against Leicester, followed by a draw at Kingston Park, has left Kingsley Jones men with six points and in fourth position on the log at this early stage.
Determined to put things right, Bath have made six changes to their starting lineup, including the addition of Fijian No.10 Nicky Little, at the expense of Ryan Davis, and flank Jonny Faamatuainu – starting after impressing off the bench last weekend.
Sale, by comparison, have made just a couple slight changes to their starting team with young star James Gaskell moving into lock and Chris Jones returning at No.8
rugby365 Prediction: There is little doubt that Bath have the quality to go to Sale and pick up the win but sometimes teams just don’t look like being able to buy a win. Bath are unfortunately in that place right now. A tight contest probably set to be decided by the two teams kickers… where Sale would have the edge. Sale by seven.
Saturday, 19 September
Gloucester v Northampton (15.00) (14.00 GMT) – Kingsholm – Two teams looking for big things from the current campaign, neither will want to give an inch this weekend.
Gloucester were disappointing last weekend against the Irish but impressive the week before at home to Bath. Northampton meanwhile, themselves losers by just three points at Wembley last Saturday, have already shown glimpses of the form which has made many people believe that could go all the way this season.
Saints’ impressive summer signings, Phil Dowson and Shane Geraghty look set to become key figures at the club and should once again play big roles for the club this weekend at Kingsholm.
After last weekend’s poor showing the real question on everyone’s mind will be ‘how do Gloucester respond?’ Do Bryan Redpath’s men have the character to bounce back? A question asked many times of them during Dean Ryan’s time at the club…
rugby365 Prediction: Possibly the toughest one for us to call this weekend. Northampton have plenty good going for them though while Gloucester, for us, remain a pretty unknown quantity. A tough battle decided by a moment of magic… We’re tipping the Saints to edge this one by four.
Harlequins v Saracens (15.00) (14.00 GMT) – The Stoop, Twickenham – Harlequins, as Chris Malone put it earlier this week, ‘really just need a win.’ After a miserable summer Harlequins have suffered two defeats to start the season and, while there were some signs of improvement last weekend, they can ill afford a second straight defeat at the Stoop.
Saracens have enjoyed two good victories already this season, against London Irish and Northampton, and are slowly starting to prove to everyone that they could genuinely be playoff contenders this season.
Harlequins will be looking to their senior players to stand up and be counted. Nick Easter, captain Will Skinner and Nick Evans especially will need big performances.
With England’s first choice inside centre, Riki Flutey, ruled out for three months, both Jordan Turner-Hall and Brad Barritt will be hoping to impress national coach Martin Johnson. In tight matches it is often individual battles such as these which can sway the match as a whole.
rugby365 Prediction: Another annoyingly tough one to call. On form Saracens should stroll to a victory but sooner or later Quins are going to make a stand – there is just too much character and class in their team for them not too. It may be a surprise to most but we’re tipping the home side to take it, by eight.
Leicester Tigers v Newcastle (17.35) (16.35 GMT) – Franklin’s Gardens – Between them these two teams have scored just one try, and conceded just one try, in the opening two rounds of the new season. So what can we expect this weekend then?
Playing at home for the first time this season the Tigers have already admitted they are ‘eager to put on a show’ in front of the new Catepillar Stand. An expected crowd of 24 000, a determined Leicester side, this is not going to be an easy match for the Falcons.
Still searching for their first win of the season, after two frustrating draws, Steve Bates’ much changed side are full of powerful and exciting players but clearly still need a little time to gel as a unit.
While the injured list at the Tigers remains a serious concern, one massive boost for the defending Champs this weekend will be the return of vice-captain Aaron Mauger. The All Black centre played 20 mintues off the bench last weekend and, with Toby Flood and Sam Vesty still ruled out, he will no doubt offer the Tigers attack something they might have been missing in the opening two rounds.
rugby365 Prediction: Richard Cockerill’s men need a victory this weekend and, while the Falcons remain a favourite of rugby365’s, they are going to struggle to overcome the Welford Road factor. Geordan Murphy’s men to take it by ten.
Sunday, 6 September
Leeds Carnegie v London Irish (15:00) (14:00 GMT) – Headingley – A disappointing performance against Worcester last weekend, Leeds will be determined to impress their home fans this weekend against London Irish.
Irish, by contrast, were sparked into life last weekend against Gloucester. Toby Booth and Mike Catt watched on as their troops produced a stunning performance in a fiery contest against the Cherry and Whites, winning 40-10.
Unfortunately though, for the Exiles and England, the victory came at a cost. Star fullback Delon Armitage picked up an injury and is now expected to be out well beyond the November international series.
Even without one of their Armitage’s, the Irish will fancy picking up a win away from home this weekend. Narrowly missing out against Sacarens at Twickenham in round one, the Exiles will hope that their fantastic performance against Gloucester will prove to have been the start of big season for them.
rugby365 Prediction: Leeds have plenty of endeavour and potential but, as we saw last weekend, are still on a learning curve. Unfortunately for Neil Back and Andy Key the curve still has some time to run and the Irish should prove too powerful for their charges this weekend. Last years losing finalists to take it by 12.
London Wasps v Worcester (15.00) (14.00 GMT) – Adams Park – Sitting sweetly at the top of the table with two wins from two matches, London Wasps have been inspired by the form of new signing Tom Varndell and young scrumhalf Joe Simpson.
Varndell, a summer arrival from Leicester, has scored four tries in two matches while Simpson, a product of the Wasps academy, has thrived playing behind an inform pack.
Worcester too have made a promising start to the new season. Despite many people tipping them for a tough season (ourselves included), Mike Ruddock’s men have shown great resolve in the opening two rounds. A heartbreaking defeat to Northampton, followed up by a comprehensive victory over leads, Pat Sanderson and his troops will head to Adams Park believing they have the firepower to cause an upset.
Boosted by the return of Sam Tuitupou, Worcester will be at their combative best. Should their pack of forwards get the job done up front then there is certainly no doubt the likes of Willie Walker, Tuitupou and Chris Latham have the ability to run the Wasps ragged.
rugby365 Prediction: Contrary to popular believe, the Warriors are not going to lie down for any side this season. That said, the Wasps seem to have adapted well to life under new Director of Rugby Tony Hanks and should have enough to secure a second consecutive win at Adams Park. Serge Betson’s side to take it by seven or less.